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Biomedical scientists use scientific research to improve human health. They design studies to test and develop new treatment plans, analyze medical data to investigate pathogens and chronic diseases, as well as develop social programs that can improve outcomes in population health. Biomedical science is the science of medicine and to practice it, biomedical scientists need to be highly educated and supremely dedicated.

While the old school way of thinking used to prescribe biomedical scientists a linear pathway through school to positions in academic research, that’s not necessarily still the case. Between 2005 and 2009, some 100,000 doctoral degrees were awarded but only 16,000 new professor positions were created, according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health. But that apparent oversupply isn’t as grim as it looks: data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected an 8 percent increase in jobs for biomedical scientists nationally from 2018 to 2028.

Working in several sectors ranging from research to academia, biomedical scientists can choose to pursue work in faster-paced fields of industry or university-based laboratories. But everything comes with tradeoffs. Being under the direction of a specific corporate agenda, biomedical scientists who work as industry researchers generally have less intellectual freedom than their academic counterparts but are often paid higher salaries. On the other hand, biomedical scientists who work in academia may have intellectual freedom, but can be constrained by grant funding, publication quotas, and teaching requirements.

Some biomedical scientists put themselves in a different category altogether by pursuing a medical degree alongside their research education, opening up the possibility of private practice and physician-related duties. It’s also becoming more common for biomedical scientists to seek employment in nontraditional roles: someone educated as a biomedical scientist may now apply their knowledge in fields like consulting, public policy, and patent law.

On the whole, occupations in biomedical science are growing and there are multiple pathways to pursue this career. The type of education will influence which sector of biomedical science a professional will end up in. To plan ahead for all possible options, read on for a step-by-step guide to becoming a biomedical scientist.

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